Trump’s Golan move shows US contempt for international law and rules-based order

(Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967)

The US President Donald Trump’s tweet on Thursday that the United States should back Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, didn’t quite come like a bolt from the blue. There has been talk about such a thing for sometime. Last December, the US Congress had begun pioneering a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the US should recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. 

Last month, new legislation was proposed in both houses of the Congress which called for recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as part of the strategy to counter Iran and Syria. A copy of the Senate version of the bill stated, “It shall be the policy of the United States… to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” The resolution stated that such a move is critical in the light of new realities on the ground including Iran’s presence in Syria. The resolution argued that Israel’s security from attacks from Syria and Lebanon cannot be assured without control over Golan Heights.

In addition, the bill said it is in US interest that Israel retains control over this territory to ensure that the Syrian government faces “diplomatic and geopolitical consequences” for killing civilians and allegedly using chemical weapons. 

The sophistry aside, the fact of the matter is that the influential Jewish lobby began canvassing for such legislation once it became clear that Israel had lost the war in Syria. The primary purpose of the Israeli intervention in the Syrian Conflict by way of equipping and supporting extremist groups to overthrow the government led by President Bashar al-Assad was that a weakened and preferably dismembered Syria would never be in a position to demand the vacation of the Israeli occupation of Golan Heights. 

Simply put, Tel Aviv is pulling strings in Washington to get US recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory with the hope that the lone superpower’s opinion would somehow help legitimise the illegal occupation of Syrian territory since the 1967 war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pinned hopes that any Syrian political settlement would also include provisions legitimising the Israeli occupation of Golan. 

A sub-plot here is about the timing of the tweet by Uncle Trump. Quite obviously, he is boosting the profile of nephew Netanyahu who is in dire straits at the moment fighting an election where he is trailing and staring at the prospect of a prison term for corruption. What are uncles for, after all, if they don’t help when nephew is in trouble — and big trouble at that? 

But then, there is still more to it than meets the eye. The fact of the matter is that Golan Heights is believed to have vast oil reserves that could supply all of Israel’s needs. In fact, Israel began drilling for oil already by 2015 in anticipation of the ouster of President Assad. 

The US foreign policy is reaching a historic low point in this episode by helping to legitimise the illegal occupation of territories belonging to another sovereign country. Trump is plainly ignoring international law and the UN Charter. Yet, the US pontificates about a rules-based world order. In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly actually had passed a resolution affirming the “inalienable rights” of the Arab population in the Golan over its natural resources. The 1907 Hague Regulations, which is a cornerstone of international law, unambiguously states that an occupying power must “safeguard the capital of these properties.” Stealing resources from an occupied territory constitutes the crime of pillage. 

Where such an act of pillage will ultimately lead to, time only can tell. Make no mistake, Syria will never accept the occupation of a part of the country. The US-Israeli conspiracy will meet with Syrian resistance. In fact, Trump is virtually pushing Syria into the resistance camp in the Muslim Middle East. A weakened Syria cannot challenge Israel militarily. But in the fulness of time, Israel is getting surrounded by a circle of hostile nations. 

(Map of Israel-Syria border)

There are strong indications already that a resistance front against the US and Israel is forming in the northern tier of the Middle East stretching from Iran westward to the Mediterranean coast. Assad’s visit to Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Al Khamenei conferring the highest military honour on the commander of Iran’s Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s high-profile visit to Iraq, the meeting of the commanders of the armed forces of Iran, Iraq and Syria in Damascus — all these developments in the most recent weeks underscore the emergence of a new strategic alliance that will work toward the purge of US influence in the region. 

This trend is also reflected in a pronounced shift in the Iranian foreign policies, which no longer prioritise Iran’s integration into the Western world and would instead attribute centrality to resistance. Ironically, Trump’s cynical move on Golan — as per the wishes of his deep-pocketed Jewish donors such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam, influential lobby groups, and far-right Christian fringe — will end up providing strategic depth to Iran in its region to push back at the US’ containment policy. 

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